Whew! That was a long debate last night, but I did not learn anything new about the Republican take on the issues. Eventually I want to talk about some of what was said. First, however, I want to tackle this topic of “state’s rights”. I have read the Constitution. I know that it says that any rights not designated to the Federal government belong to the states. I know that not many rights are assigned to the Federal government. Mostly the Federal government is granted military rights and rights necessary to keeping the government funded and functioning.
But the Constitution also describes Congress in some detail and it is made clear that it is the job of Congress to pass laws on behalf of the people so our forefathers obviously expected government to lay down an extended body of law. As a result there has been an enormous collection of laws and traditions which have collected over our 230+ years that adds essential detail to a very (and deliberately) sparse constitutional document.
What the Republicans want to do is scrap the body of law and tradition which has expanded the reach of the Federal government and they want to return to a strict adherence to the original wording in the Constitution. Republicans have talked about this for years – Federalism as in the Federalist papers wherein colonists (founders) argued endlessly about how much power should devolve to the Federal government and how much to the states. This is fairly esoteric stuff and it is possible that Republicans like to pontificate about Federalism to impress us with their superior intelligence. Most Americans that I have met do not sit around talking about Federalism or state’s rights. They may, however, complain about government interference in their daily lives as in the “nanny state,” which is where the Republicans, who seem to have all majored in Constitutional Law, connect with their base.
I don’t mind a continuing dialogue about state’s rights but I think we need to evaluate why Republicans are so strident and extreme on this subject right now. Of course, with eight years of a Democratic Presidency, Republicans are bound to be experiencing the political equivalent of “road rage.” They have never liked Obama and have painted him as weak in a never-ending stream of character assassination. So there is that. There is the worry that Democrats will raise taxes on the rich. If the Federal government gets smaller they won’t have to. So some of this is about protecting wealth. They will never forgive Obama for squeezing through the Affordable Care Act. Then there are the things he tried to do with immigration and the Dream Act which he passed through executive action. There was the red line which he walked back in Syria. There was Benghazi and the IRS. The Republican have measured out the Obama administration in mostly made-up scandals. The final blow to the GOP was the legalization of same sex marriage for which they blame the Supreme Court and, of course, Obama.
The list is long – they don’t like that Obama turned down Keystone. They don’t see how any human energy regulations on CO2 emissions can possibly help with climate change even if it is real. They don’t like Common Core and they blame its adoption on, guess who, Obama. There is nothing Republicans like about the past seven years.
It is small wonder that they are rabid to ditch the Federal government. They have been consolidating power in the states. They are going to find it difficult to elect a President because – small tent, although they probably will hold on to Congress, because – gerrymandering. If they can drown the Federal government in that proverbial bathtub they can do an end run around the Federal government and make their own state laws about things like education, energy, taxes, business regulations, marriage, and marijuana.
It is tempting to cut them loose and give them our blessings except that we are the United States of America, not the Loosely Affiliated States of America. If states have their own school rules, etc. we will soon look more like separate nations than separate states. The USA will look more like the EU. This would be a sad state of affairs and, although we might still be America, we will not be the USA.
Remember, some of these states have even encouraged militias in case they have to go to war against the Federal government. This is the point at which I see the current state’s rights movement as sedition. Didn’t we already have this war? We all recognize that the South and the North, the East and the West still have their differences, their special needs, and their unique points of view about key concerns, but we lose too much power, too much tradition and history, and too much gravitas in the world if we become divided into 50 separate states. This is not just nostalgia talking, extreme state’s rights would put an end to a Democratic experiment that our forefathers began and the entire world would be poorer for not having our governing example before them as an option. By selfishly insisting on having your way about small things, you chance removing hope that an organized, considered, and considerate society can indeed exist and survive.
By Nancy Brisson